Federal prosecutors in Massachusetts have charged 50 people in a major college admission scandal that involved wealthy parents, including Hollywood celebrities and prominent business leaders, paying bribes to get their children into elite American universities.
The New York Times reports that 33 parents have been charged in the case. Also implicated were top college coaches, who were accused of accepting millions of dollars to help admit students to Yale, Stanford, Wake Forest, the University of Southern California and other schools, regardless of their academic or sports ability.
Those charged include Hollywood actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, as well as prominent business leaders, a fashion designer and a top lawyer, officials say.
The case is the Justice Department’s largest ever education prosecution; it involved 200 agents nationwide and resulted in the arrests of 50 people in six states.
At the center of the fraud case is William Rick Singer, the founder of a college preparatory business called the Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key.
"Between approximately 2011 and February 2019, Singer allegedly conspired with dozens of parents, athletic coaches, a university athletics administrator, and others, to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure the admission of students to colleges and universities including Yale University, Georgetown University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and Wake Forest University, among others," the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston said in a news release.
Authorities say the parents of some of the nation’s wealthiest and most privileged students bribed and cheated to secure spots for their children at top universities, not only cheating the system, but potentially cheating other students out of a chance at a college education.
“The parents are the prime movers of this fraud,” says U.S. Atty. Andrew E. Lelling
Lelling says those parents used their wealth to create a separate and unfair admissions process for their children.
“The real victims in this case are the hardworking students,” who were displaced in the admissions process by “far less qualified students and their families who simply bought their way in,” Lelling says.
Singer, who pleaded guilty to the charges and cooperated with federal prosecutors, used the Key and its nonprofit arm, Key Worldwide Foundation, to help students cheat on their standardized tests and classes, and pay bribes to the coaches who could get them into college with fake athletic credentials.
Singer enabled students to cheat on the standardized tests that schools use to evaluate applicants, the SAT and the ACT.
Singer also bribed Division 1 athletic coaches to tell admissions officers that they wanted certain students, even though the students did not have the necessary athletic credentials.